UCL Preview: Kane v Bellingham, Kylian’s parting gift and the most heavyweight of battles


The UEFA Champions League is the gift that keeps giving for football fans: few major tournaments in any sport can claim to so consistently offer drama and skill, as anyone who watched the recent quarter finals can attest.

We’d already thought that it would be hard to top the Round of 16, which saw shocks everywhere and buckets of goals, but just two weeks later, it ratcheted up another notch.

Manchester City’s 3-3 draw in the Bernabeu was a masterclass in finishing and saw the English champions looking most likely to progress on home soil in the second leg, only for Real Madrid to underline their new status as tournament favourites with a penalty shootout win.

Bayern Munich did something similar to City in grabbing an away draw in unfavourable circumstances at Arsenal, but were able to see the tie home with a 1-0 win in Bavaria.

On the other side of the draw, Barcelona pulled off an incredible shock to take a 3-2 lead back to Catalonia, only for PSG to bounce back with a comeback for the ages to advance. The tie was only settled in the last minute of 180 across the two games, sending the French champs through.

They’ll face Borussia Dortmund, who turned around a first leg deficit of their own to defeat Atletico Madrid in another topsy-turvy clash.

Atleti were cruising at home and should have gone 3-0 up, but a costly miss was punished within minutes as Dortmund grabbed an away consolation, then won 4-2 in Germany to set up a semi with everything to play for.

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That means two Germans, one French, one Spanish and, amazingly, zero English sides going into the final four, and with the final at Wembley no less.

Here’s what to look out for this week.

Harry Kane of Bayern Munich speaks with Bukayo Saka of Arsenal at the end of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg match between Arsenal FC and FC Bayern Munchen at Emirates Stadium on April 9, 2024 in London, England.(Photo by Catherine Ivill – AMA/Getty Images)

Bayern Munich v Real Madrid, Wednesday 1st May, 5am, live on Stan Sports

The Germans have already lost their league title to the still-undefeated Bayer Leverkusen, so are putting all their eggs in the European basket ahead of this tie.

They have Harry Kane, of course, tied with Kylian Mbappe as the best striker left in the tournament, and crucially, nothing to lose.

Nights like this are written into the history of the club and Thomas Tuchel will not need to mention that to his players on what should be an atmospheric night in Munich.

What he might focus on, however, is the forward line that his side will face. Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo and Jude Bellingham have caused havoc in Spain all year and proved lethal in Europe, especially in games where Real might not control all of the ball all of the time.

Bayern are there to be got at on the counter, especially if Matthijs de Ligt is out, as Tuchel suggested that he might be.

The Germans are already without Kingsley Coman on a long-term basis and Jamal Musiala, who missed their weekend victory over Frankfurt, is racing the clock.

They lost Konrad Laimer against Eintracht too, and there are severe doubts that he can back up for the Champions League.

Real, however, only have Davi Carvajal suspended and have actually welcomed back a long-term absentees, defender Eder Militao, who completed 90 minutes on Friday night.

And while there is no English team left, their best two players do face off, and both are the best on their teams. Kane v Bellingham should be a match for the ages.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Borussia Dortmund v PSG, Thursday 1st May, 5am, live on Stan Sports

With the first tie a battle of the big swingers, the second provides balance in a true underdog battle.

Alright, Dortmund are far from small themselves – just wait until 80,000 people are rocking the Westfalenstadion – but compared to PSG, they are outsiders.

The Qatari state, who back PSG, have made it clear from the very start that their intention was to win the Champions League, and right-thinking football fans everywhere have laughed heartily as they have failed to do so year after year.

Now, though, they are in a great position and need to put up or shut up. Their budget dwarfs BVB, who are a bastion of the 50+1 membership model of German football, but even that wasn’t enough to keep superstar Mbappe happy, and he will walk at the end of the season to Real Madrid.

Coach Luis Enrique mightn’t be too bothered about that – Kylian hasn’t always fit what he wanted to do tactically – but in the here and now, it’s hard to see them getting a better chance than this, when they are heavy favourites in a semi and still have their best player on deck.

These two actually met in the group stage – PSG won at home, 2-0, and drew in Germany, 1-1 – but that was but prelude to the stakes here.

Dortmund need to make their home advantage count and get something to take to the Park des Princes, but are sweating on the fitness of stalwart defender Mats Hummels and electric attacker Donyell Malen.

PSG are full strength, with Mbappe rested at the weekend and set to start. It’s his time to shine.

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